Beschreibung und Texte
Ben Selvin conducts The Radiolites doing "Everybody Loves My Girl."
Seger Ellis sings refrain (1927)
Originally a violinist, Ben Selvin (c. 1898 - 15 July 1980) probably made more records than any other bandleader of the 78 rpm era, his career in the record industry spanning decades.
He may be best known among record collectors not for specific recordings but for quantity. Articles on page 145 of the January 1924 issue of Talking Machine World and page 86 of the January 1924 issue of Metronome celebrated Selvin's 1,000th record--this was early in Selvin's career. The articles, evidently based on the same press release prepared by Selvin himself, state that the musician was "twenty-five years of age."
Page 67 of the February 1925 issue of Metronome states that Selvin "recently made his 1200th phonograph record." He remained important in the record industry for decades, even becoming a vice president of Columbia during the heyday of Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Doris Day and Buddy Clark. Later he was an A & R man for RCA, overseeing the popular RCA Camden series of reissued material until forced to retire at age 65.
He was born to Russian immigrants. His father, Max, was a tailor. Page 34d of the September 1927 issue of Talking Machine World gives this background information: "Ben Selvin, a native of New York, started fiddling at the age of seven. He made his first public appearance at the Star Casino at the age of nine. Acclaimed a prodigy, and presented with a gold medal in recognition of his genius, it was planned to send him to Paris for further study.
Reverses prevented, but Ben was determined to succeed, so kept on working in and around New York. In 1913 Mr. Selvin made his first appearance on Broadway. From there he went to Rector's, then to Reisenweber's and Healy's. When nineteen years old, Ben Selvin organized his own orchestra and played at the Moulin Rouge for Broadway's record orchestral run--a run of seven years." Page 86 of the January 1924 issue of Metronome states, "In 1922 he was assigned to the newly created Broadway, which, with an augmented orchestra, he took by storm. Soon his popular aggregation was transferred to the 'Pavilion Royal,' where more admirers were won."
Victor's November 1919 supplement credits Benjamin B. Selvin for arranging the two numbers on Victor 18614 performed by Selvin's Novelty Orchestra, "Mandy" and "Novelty One-Step." Soon afterwards came his best-selling record, "Dardanella," with lyrics by Fred Fisher, music by Johnny Black and Felix Bernard. This was cut by Selvin's Novelty Orchestra for Victor 18633 on November 20, 1919, and issued in February 1920.
The June 1921 issue of Talking Machine World announced that Selvin's Novelty Orchestra, engaged at the time at the Moulin Rouge in New York City, "signed up exclusively for the making of Vocalion records." (Curiously, Brunswick and other companies continued to issue discs of Selvin's Orchestra.)
By the end of 1927 he was closely associated with Columbia. Page 34d of the September 1927 issue of Talking Machine World states, "Ben Selvin, besides being known as one of the greatest of American orchestral leaders, has accepted the post of Program Director of the Columbia Phonograph Hour, sponsored by the Columbia Phonograph Co., to be presented every Wednesday evening over the entire chain of the Columbia Broadcasting System, starting September 28." The Columbia Broadcasting System, a broadcasting chain controlled by the Columbia Phonograph Company, had been formed only months earlier.
Around 1947 Selvin worked for Majestic Records as chief of artists and repertory. Late in life he worked for RCA, overseeing the popular RCA Camden reissue series. In the early 1960s, he was forced to retire from RCA at age 65. He became a consultant for 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing), a company that transferred recordings to audiotape. He recommended records to be transferred to the new tape medium.
In the mid-1970s he was reunited with former Brunswick recording director Walter Haenschen ("Carl Fenton") for a taped interview at Lincoln Center. The unpublished interview is part of the Haenschen collection at Ithaca College in upstate New York.
He married three times. His first wife, Alice, bore him a son, Robert, in 1924 (he died in 1999). In 1944 he married Gloria, and they had two children, Rick (1944) and Rene (1950). Following Gloria's death in the 1970s, he married a woman named Dorothy.
Selvin died while recuperating from a heart attack.